Is shelled hemp seeds gluten-free?

Quick Answer

Yes, shelled hemp seeds are gluten-free. Hemp seeds naturally do not contain any gluten, so pure hemp seeds that have been removed from their shell are inherently gluten-free. However, some commercially available hemp seeds may be contaminated with gluten during processing, so it’s important to buy certified gluten-free products if following a gluten-free diet.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. The two main proteins that make up gluten are glutenin and gliadin. Gluten provides elasticity and helps foods maintain their shape. It’s found in many staple foods like bread, pasta, cereals, baked goods, etc.

For most people, gluten poses no health concerns. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fatigue. A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease and can help manage symptoms for those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Are Hemp Seeds Naturally Gluten-Free?

Yes, hemp seeds are naturally gluten-free. Hemp comes from the Cannabis sativa plant and is different from wheat and other gluten-containing grain crops. Hemp seeds contain no gluten proteins – the only proteins found in pure hemp seeds are edestin and albumin.

Hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years as a source of food, fiber, and medicine. Traditionally, the whole hemp seeds are pressed to extract hemp oil. The leftover seed cake is nutritious but tough to eat due to the hard outer shell. Removing this shell gives you shelled hemp seeds, also called hemp hearts.

Hemp Seed Nutrition Facts

Here is the nutrition breakdown for 3 tablespoons (30 grams) of shelled hemp seeds:

Calories Protein Fat Carbs Fiber
180 9 grams 14 grams 3 grams 2 grams

As you can see, hemp seeds are packed with nutrition and are an excellent plant-based protein source. They contain over 30% protein, are high in the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and are a good source of iron, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins.

Are All Hemp Seeds Gluten-Free?

While pure hemp seeds contain no gluten naturally, not all packaged hemp seeds on the market are guaranteed gluten-free. Hemp seeds can become contaminated with gluten-containing grains at several stages:

During Growing

Hemp is sometimes rotated with wheat and other gluten grains or grown as a cover crop. Cross-contamination can occur if hemp is harvested using the same equipment without proper cleaning.

During Transport and Storage

Hemp seeds may become mixed with gluten-containing grains during transport in shared trucks or storage in shared grain elevators.

During Processing

Some companies process hemp seeds on equipment that also processes wheat, barley or rye without proper sanitation between runs. Or gluten-containing ingredients like maltodextrin or wheat starch may be added as flow agents.

How to Buy Gluten-Free Hemp Seeds

If you need to follow a strict gluten-free diet, make sure to purchase hemp seeds certified as gluten-free. Here are some tips:

1. Look for GF Certification

Buy hemp seeds that are certified gluten-free by an independent organization like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). The GFCO logo ensures products contain less than 10 ppm gluten.

2. Read Ingredient Lists

For hemp seed products without certification, read the ingredients carefully. They should contain 100% pure hemp seeds without questionable additives.

3. Contact Manufacturer

If uncertain about any ingredients or processing, contact the manufacturer and ask about their procedures to prevent gluten cross-contamination.

4. Buy Whole Seeds

Opt for whole, intact hemp seeds which have less surface area for cross-contamination. Then shell them yourself at home.

Hemp Seeds and Celiac / Gluten Sensitivity

For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, hemp seeds can be a great addition to a gluten-free diet as long as care is taken to source certified gluten-free products.

Some key points:

Very Low Risk of Gluten Reaction

Multiple studies have found that even when not certified gluten-free, the vast majority of commercial hemp seeds and products contained gluten levels below 20 ppm. This is considered very low risk for most gluten-sensitive individuals.

Can Provide Protein Alternative to Gluten Grains

Hemp seeds are high in complete, plant-based protein, providing an alternate source besides gluten-containing grains.

Associated with Reduced Gluten Immunoreactivity

Some research indicates hemp and other cannabis-derived compounds may actually reduce inflammatory reactions to gluten. More studies are needed to confirm this effect.

Well-Tolerated in Most

In clinical studies, shelled hemp seeds were well-tolerated by celiac patients, with very few reports of gastrointestinal symptoms. Those extremely sensitive should exercise caution when introducing any new food.

Ways to Eat Shelled Hemp Seeds

Here are some simple ways to enjoy shelled hemp seeds as part of a tasty, gluten-free diet:

Sprinkle on Salads, Yogurt or Cereal

Add hemp hearts onto any salad, bowl of yogurt, or gluten-free cereal for a boost of minerals, protein and healthy fats.

Blend into Smoothies

Mix a spoonful of shelled hemp seeds into your favorite smoothie recipe for extra nutrition without impacting taste or texture.

Include in Baked Goods

Substitute hemp hearts for up to 1/4 of the flour in gluten-free muffins, breads, cookies or bars.

Use as Egg Replacer

Combine 3 tablespoons hemp seeds with 1 tablespoon water. Let sit briefly until gelatinous then use to replace one egg in gluten-free baking.

Make Hemp Milk

Blend hemp seeds with water then strain to make a creamy, plant-based hemp milk.

Add to Granola Bars

Mix hemp hearts into homemade granola bars along with nuts, seeds, dried fruit and gluten-free oats.

Coat Fish or Chicken

Grind hemp seeds into a flour and use to coat fish or chicken before baking for a gluten-free crust.

Hemp Seed Recipes

Here are some delicious recipes using shelled hemp seeds:

Hemp Heart Pesto Pasta

Combine hemp hearts, basil, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, parmesan, and salt for a creamy pesto sauce. Toss with brown rice pasta for a nutrient-packed gluten-free meal.

Overnight Hemp Chia Seed Oats

Mix hemp hearts with chia seeds, gluten-free oats, milk, yogurt, and maple syrup. Refrigerate overnight for an easy make-ahead breakfast.

Hemp Energy Bites

Blend together hemp seeds, peanut butter, honey, gluten-free oats, coconut, chocolate chips and flaxseed. Form into bite size balls for a healthy, filling snack.

Hemp Seed Chicken Crust

Coat chicken breasts with a hemp seed flour mixture. Bake until crispy for a crunchy, gluten-free crust on chicken.

Hemp Banana Muffins

Add hemp hearts, mashed banana, eggs, yogurt, maple syrup and vanilla to gluten-free flour blend. Scoop batter into lined muffin tins for delicious gluten-free muffins.

Potential Side Effects of Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are very well tolerated by most people. However some potential side effects to be aware of include:

Digestive Issues

High fiber foods like hemp seeds may cause initial digestive upset in some, especially when eating large amounts. Start with small servings to let your body adjust.

Drug Interactions

Theoretically hemp seeds may interact with drugs metabolized through CYP-450 enzymes. More research is needed, so talk to your doctor if taking any medications.

Risk of Hemp Allergy

Hemp allergy is rare but does exist. Discontinue use if any signs of food allergy like hives, swelling or difficulty breathing.

Failed Drug Tests

While hemp seeds don’t cause psychoactive effects, hemp may interfere with employment drug screening. Federal workplace testing has raised the cut-off level to avoid false positives.

Hormonal Effects

Due to hormonally-active compounds in hemp, very high intakes may potentially contribute to hormone-sensitive conditions like endometriosis or breast cancer. Moderation is advised.


In summary, shelled hemp seeds are naturally gluten-free and safe for most people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity as long as care is taken to buy certified gluten-free products. Hemp seeds provide an excellent source of plant-based protein, healthy fats, minerals and fiber. They can easily be incorporated into many different recipes to boost nutrition in a gluten-free diet. Just be mindful of potential digestive effects from over-consumption and discuss hemp seeds with your doctor if taking any medications. With proper precautions regarding sourcing and intake amounts, shelled hemp seeds can be a nutritious, gluten-free addition to your diet.

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